Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poster or poser?





In Iraq, Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that there's a snag in the Baghdad recounts which were expected to begin this week but will now be delayed until at least next week as a result of a lack of instructions. Most observers have estimated the recounts would take eight to ten days. Meanwhile Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) insists that the US has entered the negotiations on who will lead Iraq: "The proposal is for Mr Maliki and Mr Allawi to split the four-year prime ministerial term, according to Dr Mahmoud Othman, who is a veteran member of the Baghdad parliament." Othman, Cockburn forgets to explain, is the Kurdistan Alliance leader. The Kurds would be kept in the circle but would they be informed of so much? Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't but this is Patrick Cockburn, don't forget. The man who 'reported' a woman stoned to death was hanged -- only one of the many examples in which he continues his family's long tradition of estrangement from reality and facts. If it is an offer, it's an idiotic one. Nouri would want to go first and stepping down after two years? Now that's funny. In the real world, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill spoke to the press in Baghdad today and expressed that it was time for Iraq to "get this show on the road [. . .] While we always knew this was going to be a tough period, we are approaching almost seven weeks" since March 7th's election. No, it doesn't sound as if Hill's expressing that the US has brokered or is brokering a deal. Jane Arraf and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (Christian Science Monitor and McClatchy Newspapers) quote Hill also stating, "We have not gone on to government formation as of yet and we share the concern of those who believe that its time that the politicians got down to business and started forming a government." This morning NPR's Quil Lawrence (Morning Edition) spoke with Ayad Allawi who states, "If no counting is going to take place in other places that have been disputed including what the Kurds have disputed, we are not going to acknowledge the results of the recount in Baghdad."

Allawi just had no idea. Ian Black (Guardian) reports on what happened later in the day "52 candidates were disqualified, threatening the slight lead of challenger Ayad Allawi and risking heightened sectarian tensions. Two candidates were ruled out on grounds of links to the outlawed Ba'ath party by a judicial review panel of the independnet electoral commission. Both were elected for Allawi's Iraqiya list,w hich won two seats more than the State of Law bloc led by Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister, in the 7 March polls. Spokesmen for Iraqiya said they would be replaced by members of the same list." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) adds, "The court's decision, at a minimum, will delay the formation of a new government through the months when the Obama administration has pledged to withdraw its combat troops, leaving a force of only 50,000 after September." Myers also notes that Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami are attempting to have nine other elected MPs forced out by the commission for alleged Ba'athist connections. But BBC News maintains that the Justice and Accountability Commission -- which is Chalabi and al-Lami -- are the ones who did the purge -- not some electoral body or "special elections court" -- and they add "The De-Baathificiation committee is seen as being led by political figures from Iraq's majority Shia population." That Justice and Accountability is responsible is backed up by Arraf and al-Dulaimy's reporting which notes that was the body reviewing the candidates and quotes Ali al-Lami crowing, "The decision is to disqualify 52 candidates, set aside all the votes they won in the elections and to rule out the winning candidates." Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds, "Meanwhile, some have questioned the intentions of AJC leaders Ahmed al-Chalabi and al-Lami - both Shiite politicians who ran in the elections. The commission has become somewhat controversial in recent months as some Iraqis and foreign observers say it is being used to eliminate political opponents, including prominent Sunni politician Saleh al-Mutlaq, who was among more than 500 candidates the AJC banned from running in the elections ahead of the vote."

Over the weekend, Alsumaria TV reported that Allawi was stating he and al-Maliki could meet "at anytime" and "He showed willingness to ally with State of Law Coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, yet, he reiterated his attachment to Al Iraqiya List's constitutional right to form the government." Today, Alsumaria reports, Jalal Talabani, who occupies the figure head position of President of Iraq, called for unity and insisted "that winning coalitions are close to agree on the three presidencies." Yeah, Jalal, that's the pressing issue. Three presidencies? He means Iraq's president and it's two vice presidents. Despite announcing he would not seek the office again, Jalal's changed him mind and wants to hold on to the presidency. For him, it's the most important issue. More important than Iraq forming a national government.

At The Huffington Post, former Booz Allen Hamilton employee, current Truman National Security Project fellow and Georgetown PhD candidate Peter Henne advocates for Ayad Allawi as the new prime minister:

While Americans want out of Iraq, the stability of the country is far from assured, and reignited ethnic violence in that country can harm both US interests and the American conscience. The best course for the United States to take may be to fully support the outcome of the parliamentary elections, including its winner, Iyad Allawi.
As I argued recently, the recent parliamentary elections represented a significant milestone in Iraq's democratic development. Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's secular coalition -- which many Sunnis supported -- won a plurality of votes, claiming victory. He beat out incumbent Nouri al-Maliki's coalition of Shia groups, and the more radical Shia bloc of Moqtada al-Sadr. Because no side gained a clear majority, difficult negotiations among the factions are needed before a new government is formed.
Yet, al-Maliki has hesitated in accepting Allawi's victory. Al-Maliki ominously pointed out that he remains the commander of Iraq's military, and accused Allawi of fraud. Also, he convinced Iraq's Supreme Court to allow him -- instead of Allawi -- to set up the next government. And there have been continuing moves to disqualify some candidates in Allawi's bloc for reputed Baathist ties, which could erase his lead. In addition to this, al-Maliki has been negotiating with al-Sadr to merge their blocs, which would yield a majority.
If al-Maliki succeeds in holding on to power, the results could be disastrous. If he does so through extra-democratic means -- such as a coup (even a soft one) or disqualifying members of Allawi's coalition -- it could undermine the viability of Iraqi democracy and set the stage for a return to dictatorship. Even if he wins through an alliance with al-Sadr, ignoring the outcome of an election could degrade voters' confidence in the system.

We're not advocating on behalf of anyone. And you can refer to Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts' "Iraq's Got Tyrants" for those who need a laugh -- and also Kat's "Kat's Korner: My Best Friend Is Kate Nash" went up Sunday. You can agree or disagree with Henne's argument. But if you disagree, don't do so stupidly the way one of the commentators does who rips apart Henne's argument and insists that the "60% Shia population" would not have "duly elected a Sunni as their leader." Who is the Sunni? Ayad Allawi? Allawi is a Shi'ite. Which goes to show just how poorly the media has handled this story. Iraqiya is not a sectarian slate. The political party was made up of Sunnis, Shias and anyone else who wanted to join. As for Allawi himself, you can't blame the media as much there. If someone doesn't know the second -- since the US invasion -- prime minister of Iraq, that's pretty much on them. And, no, Iraqis would not have tolerated a Sunni being installed by the US as their prime minister. Every prime minister Iraq has had since the invasion has been a Shi'ite. Allawi was the second, al-Maliki was the third. The first? He's reportedly still the choice of the Shi'ite blocs: Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Meanwhile, Friday it was reported that Moqtada al-Sadr was reactiving the Mahdi Army. AFP reports today: "The Iraqi government said on Saturday that an offer by radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to help boost security at strategic sites was unnecessary, in the wake of anti-Shiite attacks in Baghdad." Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported Saturday that al-Sadr issued a statement clarifying that they had not been recalled and that they would be only if the government or 'government' out of Baghdad wanted it to be so. Also on Saturday, CNN reported, "A U.S. Department of Defense employee has died in Iraq of unknown causes, the U.S. military reported Saturday."

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of an assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists. We will again point out that in real time, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported, "The two Reuters staff members, both of them Iraqis, were killed when troops on an American helicopter shot into the area where the two had just gotten out of their car, said witnesses who spoke to an Agence France-Press photographer who arrived at the scene shortly after their bodies were taken away. The Reuters employees were Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, a photographer, and Saeed Chmagh, 40, a driver." Rubin quoted AFP's Ahmad Sahib stating, "They had arrived, got out of the car and started taking pictures, and people gathered. It looked like the American helicopters were firing against any gathering in the area, because when I got out of my car and started taking pictures, people gathered an American helicopter fired a few rounds, but they hit the houses nearby and we ran for cover." The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for an investigation into the July 12, 2007 assault and has published an open letter from their executive director Joel Simon to US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is disturbed by a video recently disclosed by the Web site WikiLeaks showing a U.S. military strike that took place on July 12, 2007. The attack killed an unspecified number of individuals, including Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his assistant, Saeed Chmagh.
CPJ has made numerous calls for thorough and transparent investigations into the deaths of these two men, as well as into all other cases of journalists and media workers killed by U.S. fire in Iraq . The U.S. military's Central Command said it has no current plans to reopen an investigation, Reuters reported on April 8. But in light of the fact that at least 16 journalists and three media support workers have been killed by U.S. forces' fire, according to CPJ's research, a systematic and comprehensive investigation is clearly warranted. The findings should be made public and lessons learned should be incorporated into military training to reduce the likelihood that journalists covering combat operations will come under fire.
The recently disclosed tape has been viewed by millions around the world. Several experts on international humanitarian law, including Amnesty International's Malcolm Smart and Bibi van Ginkel, a lawyer and senior fellow at the Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations, have called for investigations to determine whether U.S. forces complied with international humanitarian law.
In the video, U.S. forces can be seen opening fire on a group of men -- some of whom they said they believed were armed -- killing or critically injuring at least a dozen people. We are particularly concerned that the troops in the helicopter mistook a camera for a weapon. This is not the first such claim by the U.S. military. In August 2003, a U.S. soldier killed Reuters photographer Mazen Dana after mistaking, according to the military's investigation, Dana's camera for a rocket-propelled grenade.
The WikiLeaks tape identifies one of the injured men in the July 12 strike as Chmagh. Soldiers are heard urging him to pick up a weapon so that they can fire. A van approaches to evacuate the man identified as Chmagh. Someone in the helicopter is heard informing a commander that the van is "possibly" picking up bodies as well as weapons. Despite the fact that no weapons are visible in the video, the helicopter is granted permission to fire and does so, killing Chmagh and several people in the van and injuring children.
It is crucial that any future investigation satisfactorily determine why an injured media worker who posed no threat to U.S. personnel was fatally shot as he was being evacuated from the scene of an initial attack, also perpetrated by U.S. fire.
The attached appendix lists the 16 journalists and three media support workers who have been killed by U.S. forces' fire in Iraq . (Another three media workers were killed by fire from the U.S. security contractor Blackwater Worldwide.) While we have not found evidence that U.S. troops intentionally targeted journalists in any of these cases, our research shows that the majority of the killings were either not sufficiently investigated or that the military failed to publicly disclose its findings.
In the aftermath of each of the journalists' killings caused by U.S. troops, CPJ has called on the Department of Defense to perform timely, thorough, and transparent investigations. Unfortunately, the Defense Department has conducted such investigations in only a limited number of instances. Since May 15, 2003, CPJ has submitted six Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests to the Pentagon Freedom of Information and Security Review office as well as one FOIA request to the U.S. Central Command. Three of those seven FOIA requests remain unaddressed to date. In January 2009, CPJ also called on then President-elect Obama to order thorough investigations into these killings.
We renew our call for comprehensive, impartial, and public inquiries into all of these cases, including the events of July 12, which led to the deaths of Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh. These investigations would benefit both the military and the media so long as the lessons learned are integrated into future training.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to your reply.
Joel Simon
Executive Director

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"The non-withdrawal, the non-election"
"Deaths, denials of citizenship and other veterans issues"
"Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts 'Iraq's Got Tyrants'"
"And the war drags on . . ."
"Kat's Korner: My Best Friend Is Kate Nash"
"If only the war ended as easily as the coverage of it did"
"They were supposed to help the wounded"

Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
A note to our readers
Editorial: Goodbye, Quill
TV: Network News for Dummies
DVD: Plunder (Ava and C.I.)
Marco Reininger's opening remarks
Danny Schechter's Plunder
"Paint with all the colors of the wind, David"

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